In the second game of their current three game road trip, the Roadrunners fell to the Ontario Reign 4-1. Coming off of a weak performance against San Diego, Adin Hill was a healthy scratch; instead it was Marek Langhamer in net for Tucson and Justin Peters serving as the backup. Jack Campbell was in goal for the Reign.
The Reign also followed San Diego’s classy lead by wearing #CunnyCan stickers for Craig Cunningham on the backs of their helmets during the game. Ontario tweeted out a picture of the sticker before the game.
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) December 3, 2016
Despite a slow start which saw Ontario crash the net and score the first goal of the game, the Roadrunners were the better of the two teams in the opening frame. Eric Selleck took a nice one-timer to score off of a beautiful feed from Mark Olver (seen below), they kept the shots close (11-9 Reign) and consistently setup nice plays in the offensive zone.
Put it on the board. pic.twitter.com/8NDliAzvZk
— Tucson Roadrunners (@RoadrunnersAHL) December 3, 2016
Things didn’t really fall apart in the second period either. Reign center Michael Latta went top-shelf, bloker side off of an impressive drop pass from Andrew Crescenzi, but the score could have easily been 3-2 Tucson at the end of the period. Conor Garland had two great scoring chances; a beautiful coast-to-coast rush from our zone (which he got hooked on) and a wrap around attempt. Also, Tucson outshot Ontario 11-9. Ultimately it was Reign goaltender Jack Campbell was the difference maker in this period.
It was in the third period that Tucson didn’t put themselves in a position to win. The score was only 2-1 Ontario through 40 minutes of play, so a comeback was certainly within reach. Langhamer did the best he could in the third period, he faced 14 shots and stopped 13 (the 15th shot in the period was the empty-net goal). The reason why he even let in one was the Roadrunners’ defense not protecting the crease and once again allowing Ontario to aggressively crash the net and bury a loose puck. The offense didn’t pick up the slack either as they only managed to get 5 shots on goal; an empty net goal scored with less than two minutes left the final score at 4-1.
- Roadrunners still looking strong in goal. This loss was not Langhamer’s fault, he actually played a good game. The only goal that was entirely on him was the second one, there was no screen and it wasn’t deflected. But in the case of both the first and third goals (the 4th goal obviously wasn’t his fault either, it was the empty netter), the defense should have done a better job protecting him and keeping the crease clear.
- Conor Garland’s emergence. On October 30th after a 4-3 win over Stockton, I noted what a hard-working, fast and good player Garland is and predicted that he would start playing more important minutes. Well in San Diego he got his first goal, in Ontario he played top 6 minutes and saw lots of time on the power play. Despite being held scoreless, Garland was Tucson’s best player last night. He had two narrowly missed scoring chances (which are described in the second period section) and is great at using his incredible speed to his advantage. Continued improvement could see the 20-year -old playing on the first line by the end of the season.
- Collapsing defense. During the game, the Roadrunners played a collapsing defensive style. The idea behind collapsing back into your zone is to prevent breakaways and wait for your opponent to make a mistake, shoot and retrieve the puck. The Reign are a very aggressive team however and this strategy didn’t work against them. All they would do is crash the net, sending three forwards right into the slot and Ontario scored two goals by doing this. The Roadrunners can’t let the Reign do that in the future.
Look for Tucson to end their road trip on a high note when they take on the Bakersfield Condors tonight. The game can be listened to on 1450 AM or watched on theahl.com.